Tuesday, July 31, 2007

George Ratliff's "Joshua"

Considering how kid-centric society has become, it came as no surprise whatsover that George Ratliff's brilliant "Joshua" lasted little more than a week in most markets.

What's been thoroughly unexpected, however, is that fact that (1) it managed to get made in the first place and then (2) was picked up for distribution by one of the mini-majors, the ever enterprising and daring Fox Searchlight.

Pitched as a sophisticated horror film, along the lines of "The Exorcist" and "The Bad Seed," Ratliff's film is much more than that - an unforgiving, staunchly unapologetic look at how a child (played by the preternaturally gifted Jeremy Kogan) systematically ruins the lives of his parents.

To say that "Joshua" is not child-friendly is an understatement. The title character's malevolent relationship with his mother and father is precisely what drives the film - and it's also exactly what doomed it at the box-office.

The lesson to be learned from the dubious horror films of 2007 is that while audiences will sit still for (and even enjoy) torture flicks, they won't put up with an unpopular, disturbing social statement, no matter how serious and well-executed it is.

Profoundly moving, "Joshua" is decidedly not a tidy little chiller made for the cineplexs. Heck, even the art-house crowd couldn't handle it. Nevertheless, it remains one of the best - and certainly one of the most audacious - films of the year, and its stars, Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga, as the sacrificed parents, both turn in performances that can only be described as, well, major.

(Artwork: Jacob Kogan as the malevolent title character views an eerie video image of his mother, Vera Farmiga, in Fox Searchlight's brilliant "Joshua")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Dean Sighting!

There's a one-time screening tomorrow, July 26th (1 p.m., est; 10 a.m., pst), of Frank Tashlin's 1963 comedy with Danny Kaye, "The Man from the Diner's Club."

It's a rare Tashlin flick shot in black-&-white instead of color, but the usual cartoon shenanigans prevail. Among the comic joys here is a bit by no less than Harry Dean Stanton - billed as Dean Stanton as he was in those days - as a poetry-spouting beatnik. (And that's how his character is billed.)

Here's a chance to see something that you never thought you'd see - Tashlin directing Stanton. Check it out. And enjoy.

(Artwork: Clever "notebook" publicity tie-in for Frank Tashlin's "The Man from the Diner's Club," from Columbia in 1963)

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

the contrarian: Blake Edwards' "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961)

I've come to realize belatedly that I really don't like "Breakfast at Tiffany's." For the longest time, I thought I did. I don't know why. Perhaps it's because I am so fond of Blake Edwards, its director, or because Audrey Hepburn, its star, was so singular and always so appealing.

It's a strange film - not really a comedy, not really a drama - and while the part of party girl Holly Golightly became Hepburn's signature role, she is wildly miscast in the film. The fact that, after nearly 50 years, people are still so beguiled by her in it says more about Hepburn's star power than the performance herself.

Aside from Hepburn, George Peppard makes a uniquely unpleasant leading man, and, in a performance that was something of a racist disaster even way back in 1961, Mickey Rooney is simply unwatchable.

If there's one aspect about "Breakfast at Tiffany's" that has repeatedly seduced me over the years, it's the film's gorgeous opening credits - Hepburn, dressed in diamonds and Givanchy, sipping coffee from a cardboard container and eating a Danish as she strolls outside Tiffany's on a curiously vacant Fifth avenue at dawn, while Henry Mancini's haunting "Moon River" softly plays on the soundtrack. Magic.

I can watch the film's titles over and over again. But the movie itself, I've come to discover, I can take or leave.

Sorry.

(Artwork: Poster from Paramount's "Breakfast at Tiffany's")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Momma's talkin' loud, Momma's got the stuff, Momma's ... gettin' old - "Gypsy" Casting 1

There's yet another production of "Gypsy" in the works - this one being produced at New York's City Center under the auspices of Encores! and starring the great Patti Lupone as Rose, better known as Momma Rose in the musical. (Actually, the character is called Madame Rose throughout the show but, somehow, Momma Rose is the moniker that has stuck.)

I hasten to mention that "Gypsy" is my all-time favorite musical and I am very proprietary, possessive and, yes, opinionated about it. Also, I think that Lupone is the crown jewel of the modern musical theater. But I have a problem - and an opinion.



Why has the character of Rose traditionally been cast with an actress well into her 50s? I mean, the show spans only about 10 years or so, starting when Rose's two young daughters are 7 and 9 at best. Shouldn't the character be 30ish or maybe a little younger?
Imagine how revelatory - and different - it would be with a younger, youthful, vibrant performer in the role. But this has never happened.

I did a little research and here are the ages of the assorted actresses when they played Rose:

-Patti Lupone, age 58 (new 2007 Encores! production)

-Patti Lupone, age 57 (2006 Ravinia Festival production)

-Ethel Merman, age 57 (original 1959 Broadway production)

-Bernadette Peters, age 55 (2003 Sam Mendes revival)

-Rosalind Russell, age 55 (original 1962 film version)

-Linda Lavin, age 52 (succeeded Tyne Daly, below, in the 1989 revival)

-Betty Buckley, age 51 (1998 Papermill Playhouse production)

-Angela Lansbury, age 49 (1974 London production, followed by the first Broadway revival)

-Bette Midler, age 48 (1993 TV-movie remake)

-Betty Buckley, age 45 (1992 Southern Arizona Light Opera Company production)

-Tyne Daly, age 43 (1989 Broadway revival)

-Betty Hutton, age 40 (1961 National Tour)















Joanne Worley, Mary McCarty and Gisele MacKenzie have also played in productions of the show, Worley opposite Aundrey Landers as Louise/Gypsy. Somehow the role has evaded such powerhouses as Barbra Streisand, Carol Burnett and Liza Minnelli - and Stockard Channing, someone who I've always thought would be absolutely terrific in the part.

Anyway, given the contours of the show and its age requirement, who would you cast as Momma Rose/Madam Rose? Let me know. And be adventurous.

(Artwork: Poster art from the various productions of "Gypsy")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Brad Bird's "Ratatouille"

Pixar, abetted by the talented Brad Bird ("The Iron Giant" and "The Incredibles"), outdistances and outdoes itself with "Ratatouille," a bizarrely eccentric, richly inventive and altogether droll piece of computer animation. Would it be redundant - or too premature - to also call it the best film of the year? So what. It is.

An affecting tale about a rat named Remy who is something of a foodie, "Ratatouille" has a plot with classic contours, as Remy - clearly a fish out of water - rescuing a business where rats are persona non grata.

A restaurant. Named Gusteau's. In Paris. France. No Less.

The most divine creation here is the acerbic, acidic food critic, wittily named Anton Ego and intoned flawlessly by Peter O'Toole. Anton is the Addison DeWitt of animated characters. You get the picture.

"Ratatouille," for all its new-age animated bravura, also exhibits an awareness of the genre's history. The sequence in which the rats prepare the crucial meal at Gusteau's is clearly a clever reference to the mice making Cinderella's dress in another Disney film from an earlier era.


(Artwork: Remy the rat and rival chefs/potential lovers Linguini and Colette are among the affable characters in Disney/Pixar's "Ratatouille")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

façade: Steve M. & Steve C.


Few things are as disheartening as when an especially intelligent, observant comic actor undercuts his own talent, something that currently hounds Steve Martin and, to a lesser degree, Steve Carell, both farceurs extraordinaire.

Martin was once Mr. Reliable, one of the few reasons to go to a movie.

There were such inventive, sophisticated screen comedies, listed in no particular order, as “Roxanne” ... “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” ... "Joe Gould's Secret" ... “Bowfinger” ... “Little Shop of Horrors” ... "Novocaine"... "HouseSitter" ... “Parenthood” ... “L.A. Story” ... "All of Me" ... “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” ... “The Man with Two Brains” ... “Grand Canyon” and ... most audacious of all, “Pennies from Heaven.”

Heck, I even love such underrated Martin titles as “The Lonely Guy,” “Movers and Shakers," “My Blue Heaven,” “Leap of Faith” and "Mixed Nuts," which I'm convinced is primed for a major rediscovery.

But then, unexpectedly, came his toxic family-friendly films – the inferior “Father of the Bride” duo and the unwatchable “Cheaper by the Dozens” twins – and, well, nothing has been the same. Need I mention “Sgt. Bilko” or the unnecessary remakes of "The Out-of-Towners" and “The Pink Panther”? Or that “Shopgirl” was a major disappointment?

Anyway, it took Martin about ten years to succumb to the lowest common denominator.

Carell, unfortunately, didn’t waste any time. He lifted our spirits and hopes in the past couple of years with a memorable supporting role in the alert “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” a bravura star turn in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and a seamless team-player turn in “Little Miss Sunshine.” But now, after less than only two or three years in films, Carell has relegated himself to ... “Evan Almighty.”

I’m hoping it’s only a blip, an aberration, and that it doesn't mean that Carell will tackle his own remakes of “Father of the Bride “ and “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

But if it makes enough money...

Next up for Carell: “Dan in Real Life,” opposite Juliette Binoche, which sounds promising, and “Get Smart,” which - well, pardon the pun - doesn’t sound very smart.

(Artwork: The many faces of Steve Martin and Steve Carell, farceurs extraordinaire)

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up"

I wish I could jump on the bandwagon of critics who have been tripping over their own feet in an effort to out-praise each other when it comes to Judd Apatow and his critical darling, “Knocked Up,” and it’s not as if I haven’t tried. But I just don’t get it.

From where I sit, “Knocked Up,” Apatow’s sophomore effort as a director, is a modest, companionable, surprisingly endearing little film. No more, no less. I saw it, enjoyed it and and then got on with my life, letting the film evaporate from the recesses of my mind. At this point, it’s a dim memory, unlike Apatow’s first film, 2006’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” which still echoes in my mind with it low comedy and big heart.

It’s apparent – to me, at least - that Apatow was aiming for the same results and, to be honest, he nearly matches his first success. But “Knocked Up” is more raunchy and less poignant than it’s predecessor. In fact, it isn’t touching at all. It also has a leading man, Seth Rogan, who is a good deal less appealing and charismatic than “Virgin’s” Steve Carell, and at 129 minutes, there’s a certain straining here and a lot of dead spots.

But for some reason, the critics have felt obliged to exalt Apatow. The very credible Andrew Sarris actually compared him to Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder in his review in The New York Observer. I realize that anyone who cares about the future of movies – critics, film buffs, even studio executives - is desperate to find a new filmic hero, someone with all the answers and remedies for what ails current movies, but isn’t it a tad premature and hasty to elevate Apatow after only two films?

Not that “Knocked Up” doesn’t have its excellent spots, chief of which is Katharine Heigl, who turns in an empathetic, fully formed performance as the female lead.

As for the material here – about a guy forced into maturity by a woman’s unexpected pregnancy - I preferred it back in 1963 when Robert Mulligan directed Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen in “Love with the Proper Stranger,” a more naturalistic, affecting treatment of the subject which is often even more witty than “Knocked Up.”

(Artwork: Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen in "Knocked Up"; Poster art for "Love with the Proper Stranger")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

cinema obscura: Bridges' "September 30, 1955" (1978)

VCR Alert: The Sundance Channel screens James Bridges' "September 30, 1955" (1978) on July 10 and 11.

Bridges left only a handful of films that he directed when he died at age 57 in 1993 and, in a matter of full disclosure, I like them all - even the imperfect "Perfect."

Following the success of his breakthrough movie, "The Paper Chase" (his second), Bridges did what most shrewd and resourceful filmmakers do. He used his newly-found clout to make the kind of intensely personal movie that he might not get a chance to do later in his career.

The film was "September 30, 1955 - originally titled 9/30/55 - an evocative autobiographical exercise in which Bridges nakedly exposed what movies and movie stars can mean to people, particularly those stranded in middle American. Particuarly to one Jimmy Bridges.

The film is a heartfelt reminder of how we are sustained through life by movies and their icons. Richard Thomas, as Bridges' on-screen surrogate, named Jimmy J, plays an artless, impressionable young man driven to distraction when he hears of the death of his movie idol, James Dean. Thomas, who turns in a truly daring performance here, often bordering on the deranged, is supported by an ace cast - Tom Hulce, Dennis Quaid, Lisa Blount, Dennis Christopher and the appealing Deborah Benson.

Universal, not knowing what to do with what was clearly an art film, basically dumped "September 30, 1955, with scant advertising.

For the record, Bridges' other directorial efforts include two of my favorites, "Urban Cowboy" and the truncated "Mike's Murder"; "The Baby Maker," his first film, and "Bright Lights, Big City," his last.

Note in Passing: Leonard Rosenmann, who scored the Dean films, "East of Eden" and "Rebel Without a Cause," composed the music here for Bridges. A nice circuity to that.

Cinema Obscura is a recurring feature of The Passionate Moviegoer, devoted to those films that have been largely forgotten. Suggestions welcome.

(Artwork: Richard Thomas in James Bridges' " September 30, 1955")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

The "Sex and the City" Movie

I'm very happy that Kim Cattrall was able, as reported, to negotiate a salary commensurate with Sarah Jessica Parker's, thereby opening the door for a long-proposed film version of the phenomenally successful HBO series, "Sex and the City."

After all Parker and Cattrall were the two ingredients that sustained the show for so many years, with Parker creating a genuinely fully-fleshed character, warts and all, and Cattrall locating a subtle pathos inside her character's flamboyant randiness. Both actresses were eminently watchable, making co-stars Cynthia Nixon (abrasively annoying) and Kristin Davis (a whiney drag) just about negligible and just about unnecessary.

I look forward to savoring the Parker-Cattrall chemistry again, but ... in what?

With the actresses - and, presumably, the characters - now into their 40s and 50s, exactly what will this film examine and confront? The material can't be what it was 10 years ago and, if the makers do try to recreate their winning formular, the results could be grotesque.

Besides, wasn't this film done by James Ivory in 1989? Back then it was called "Slaves of New York," based on the tome by Tama Janowitz (the Candance Bushnell of her day). Back then, Bernadette Peters played the Carrie Bradshaw role.

"Slaves of New York"? Sounds like another candidate for my Cinema Obscura. What happened to that film?

Note in Passing: I favor the popular suspicion that "Sex and the City" is really about four gay men (the same theory that still haunts "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"). With that in mind, perhaps the film could only work now if it were played that way - or, at least, in drag.

(Artwork: Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall in an episode of HBO's "Sex and the City"; artwork for James Ivory's "Slaves of New York")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Mulligan's "Baby, The Rain Must Fall" (1965)


The late Steve McQueen's singular (albeit, not single) contribution to the screen was that he brought his Method Acting background to the action genre, as evidenced by his moody yet muscular work in "The Great Escape" (1963), "Bullitt" (1968), "Le Mans" (1971) and particularly Sam Peckinpah's "The Getaway" (1972). But he also lent his estimable talents to smaller, arguably lesser-known movies -- "Junior Bonner" (his other 1972 film with Peckinpah), "The Reivers" (1969), "The Sand Pebbles" (1966), "The Cincinatti Kid" (1965) and "Love With the Proper Stranger" (1963).

Fitting snugly into this latter group is Robert Mulligan's neglected "Baby, the Rain Must Fall" (1965) which, as we tend to forget (and some of us may not know at all), started life in 1954 as a Horton Foote play, "The Traveling Lady," starring the great Kim Stanley. Foote adapted his play for the occasion and Lee Remick more than met the challenge of standing in for Stanley on screen, turning in a delicate, yet tough-willed performance as Georgette Thomas, a young transient mother who seeks out a new life in Harrison, Texas, which is close to where her incorrigible husband Henry (McQueen) is imprisoned.

But Henry is already out of the pententiary on parole and and performing in a local saloon with a band. Trying to escape from the disapproving grip of Miss Kate, the indominable woman who raised him, and also avoid Georgette and their young daughter Margaret Rose (Kimberly Block), he drinks too much and self-destructs a little more.

The acting here is of first order, dominated by Remick who really has the lead role, and by McQueen who slips into the role of Henry as if it might have been written for him specifically. Remick is especially wonderful in her scenes with the charming Block (a plainspoken, unprecocious child actress) as they make tentative plans to settle in Harrison and talk of planting a Chinaberry tree in the front yard of their future dream house.

There is nothing wrong with "Baby, The Rain Must Fall," which was casually dismissed in its day -- nothing except its title. The film was rather hastily released in January of 1965, with most of advertising hinged to a song that was written for it. Somewhere along the way, Columbia Pictures had become disenchanted with the moniker, "The Traveling Lady," and went with the title of that song for the movie.

The song is good but has a double-edged effect on the film: It brought it a modest amount of popularity in its day but it also seriously mars the film. And as a title, it flatly misrepresents the movie and even undermines its opening credits -- superimposed over a long, extended shot of a highway speeding by, accompanied by some vintage Elmer Bernstein music. These titles were clearly designed when it was called "The Traveling Lady."

"Baby, The Rain Must Fall" was the fourth of seven titles made by the prolific team of director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan J.Pakula, who collaborated on films for about 10 years. Some of their other titles include "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962), "Love with The Proper Stranger" (1963), "Inside Daisy Clover" (1965) and "Up the Down Staircase" (1976). How their output has managed to evade a major retrospective is beyond me.

A bit of trivia: Pakula hired his wife's first husband for a role in "Baby, The Rain Must Fall." His wife at the time was Hope Lange, and her first husband was Don Murray.

"Baby, The Rain Must Fall" is available from Columbia Home Video for $24.95; an "original music" album (not to be confused with a soundtrack) - featuring portions of the wonderful Bernstein score and, of course, that hummable title song - was made available on Mainstream Records. It is long out of print, but there's always eBay.

For the record, "The Traveling Lady" opened at New York's Playhouse Theatre on October 27th, 1954 and closed after only 30 performances. The play also starred Jack Lord in the role played by McQueen in the film and was directed by Vincent J. Donohue.

There was also a TV production of "The Traveling Lady," which featured Stanley recreating her Broadway role. Hopefully, it's been preserved somewhere.

(Artwork: Still shot of Lee Remick and Kimberly Block in Columbia's "Baby, The Rain Must Fall"; artwork for the original Broadway production starring Kim Stanley)

A.O. Scott on "License to Wed"

Unfortunate films tend to bring out a critic's sense of humor and this is especially true of The New York Times' A.O. Scott in his delicious critique of Robin Williams' new comedy, "License to Wed." Here's a sampling from his July 3rd review:

"... I will confess that the only thing that kept me watching 'License to Wed' until the end (apart from being paid to do so) was the faith, perhaps misplaced, that I will not see a worse movie this year."

Catch the rest of Tony's review and have a good time.

(Artwork: Film critic A.O. Scott of The New York Times)

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

façade: Mimsy Farmer



One of the minor icons of the 1960s and '70s, the fascinating Mimsy Farmer flitted from Hollywood ingenue to biker-flick staple to jet-setting international attraction with an adjustable breeziness that made her credible in each morphing and that explains the small, select cult that never lost interest in the blonde actress.

Deceptively all-American and wholesome-looking, Farmer shrewdly subverted her first major role - as the assertive Claris Coleman in Delmer Daves' "Spencer's Mountain" in 1963 - by playing it with a shockingly candid sexuality and idiosyncratic line readings that made everything sound, well, dirty. If Warners was grooming her to be Natalie Wood's successor - and it's apparant that the studio was - you can appreciate both its reasoning and its misjudgment. She didn't wait. Farmer used her debut to undercut the powers.

A couple year's later, she did the same thing in Harvey Hart's "Bus Riley's Back in Town" (1965), nominally written by William Inge but credited to "Walter Gage" after the studio decided to showcase Ann-Margret, enlarging her role. That was good. Apparently, no one paid any attention to Farmer who got in under the radar and, again, quietly and effectively stole the film - and reduced Ann-Margret - in a matter of a handful of scenes.

Then came the biker flicks, the most memorable for me being 1967's "Hot Rod to Hell," starring Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain, before heading to Europe where she made the drug-laden "More" for Barbet Schroeder in 1969. The film was written by the former New York Times movie critic, Eugene Archer, with Farmer responsible for "additional dialogue." "More" was THE head film of its time, Farmer became the darling of the Croisette and she pretty much stayed in Europe, returning to the United States for some occasional TV work.

Her most popular film during this time was Dario Argent's horror film, "Four Flies on Grey Velvet"/"4 mosche di velluto grigio"(1971), which expanded beyond art houses to become a mainstream hit here.

Although seen only sporadically here over the past four decades, Farmer managed to make about 50 films, just about all of them in Europe. In retrospect, she seems like a not unpleasant mirage, an image that now seems at once blurred and vivid. I miss her and regret that I didn't have the time, energy or inclination to keep up with her unusual career. Thank God for film - and video and DVD. I can always create my own Mimsy Farmer Film Festival which, in addition to the titles already mentioned, would include those three biker films - "Riot on the Sunset Strip," "Devil's Angels" and "The Wild Racers."

Now, whatever happened to Kaki Hunter?

Note in Passing: Check out Dave Kehr's comments on the new DVD release of "Hot Rods to Hell" on his blog or in The New York Times.

(Artwork: Still shot of Mimsy Farmer from Cinema V's "More")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Brian Robbins' "Norbit" (2007), my magnificent obsession


The release of Eddie Murphy's criminally maligned "Norbit" on DVD brought in the following response from my friend John:

"A couple of months ago, I was checking things online and looked over to see what was new with The Passionate Moviegoer. You had a glowing recomendation for 'Norbit' of all movies. You were completely right about it. Damn good movie. Murphy was excellent. Funniest I've seen him since 'The Nutty Proffesor.' Thank you for the recomendation. Otherwise I would have skipped it altogether."

John is referring to my previous musing on "Norbit," posted March 24th.

Back then, I wrote: "For better or worse, 'Norbit' is an authentic Jerry Lewis movie, an exhilarating throwback to the kind of movies that Lewis made, specifically the ones he made with director Frank Tashlin. It is genuinely, side-splittingly funny. While Murphy's timid 'Nutty Professor' twins were ostensibly inspired by Lewis, 'Norbit' is the real thing, and unapologetically so."

That's it for repeating myself, but you can peruse the original post, if you're so inclined.

More to the point, check out "Norbit" itself, if you enjoy being genuinely, pleasantly surprised by a movie.

A belated thanks, meanwhile, to Premiere's Glenn Kenny for his reference to my theory on "Norbit" in his June 5th column, The Tashlin Tradition, and also to Dave Kehr for a smiliar plug.


Speaking of Tashlin and Kehr, I highly recommend that you check out Dave's major take on the recently released Martin-&-Lewis DVD set (vol.2 ), especially their seminal work with Tashlin. Read about it either via Dave's June 5th column in The New York Times or on his invaluable blog, Reports from the lost continent of Cinephilia, or both.

Good reading from both Dave and Glenn.

(Artwork: Eddie Murphy as Norbit, and Martin and Lewis, with Shirley MacLaine and Dean Martin in Frank Tashlin's “Artists and Models” of 1955)

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Sunday, July 01, 2007

turner this month - bravo!

Note: This is a regular monthly feature, highlighting, well, the highlights on Turner Classics' schedule. Why? Simple. Because Turner Classics remains a veritible college education in film. Say no more.

July 1: “Lili.” Charles Walters’ one-song musical was “The Sound of Music” of its day, only less toxic and much more charming.

July 2: Roz Russell’s “Never Wave at a WAC,” about a society dame who misguidedly joins the Army, was clearly the template for Goldie Hawn’s “Private Benjamin.” Plus, “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” Jack Arnold’s allegory about the utter insignificance of man in the atomic age.

July 4: “Come Blow Your Horn,” Neil Simon by way of Sinatra. Plus, the hugely underrated musical “1776,” Jack Warner’s last film – made for Columbia.

July 5: “David and Lisa,” the weirdo indie film that put The Perrys (Frank and Eleanor) on the map. Plus, “By Love Possessed,” which teams the odd couple of director John Struges and star Lana Turner.

July 6: “Living it Up,” the Martin-&-Lewis version of the Broadway musical, “Hazel Flagg.” Terrific fun. With that great team player, Janet Leigh.

July 7: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” Philip Kaufman’s effective 1978 remake of the Don Seigel cautionary classic.

July 8: Oh, just stay in all day: “Lord Love a Duck,” “Marty,” “The Best Man” and “Lover Come Back.”

July 9: “I Know Where I’m Going,” arguably the first feminist classic with the sublime Wendy Hiller. Plus, “Goodbye, Again” with Bergman, Montand and Perkins, and the definitive summer blockbuster, “Jaws.”

July 11: “The Loved One,” in which Tony Richardson directs Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters and the wonderfully named Anjanette Comer.

July 12: Meyer’s “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,” Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show” and David Swift’s “Under the Yum-Yum Tree,” in which Jack Lemmon takes over the role created on stage by Gig Young.

July 13: “The Hospital,” in which dialogue by Paddy Chayefsky is shouted for 103 minutes.

July 16: “Rashomon.” Say no more.

July 17: “Clash by Night.” Fritz Lang directs Stanwyck and Monroe. Plus, “Julie,” in which Doris Day goes dramatic.

July 18: Ida Lupino directs Roz Russell in the affable “The Trouble with Angels.” Plus Jane Fonda as “Cat Ballou.”

July 19: Cary Grant and Irene Dunne team up to perfection in “My Favorite Wife.”

July 20: “Exodus,” Otto Preminger’s sprawling film version of the Leon Uris novel.

July 21: “The Importance of Being Ernest.” Irresistible.

July 23: “Cruel Story of Youth,” Japanese teen classic. Plus a repeat of “Living It Up.”

July 24: “The Story of Three Loves.” Three times the fun. Eclectic cast. Minnelli is one of the directors.

July 25: “Godspell,” David Swift’s nimble musical which makes great use of the Twin Towers in the “All for the Best” number.” Plus, Scorsese’s flawed but fascinating “New York, New York.”

July 26: “The Man from the Diners' Club.” Frank Tashlin directs Danny Kaye. I love it! Plus two with Anne Bancroft, “The Pumpkin Eater” and “Seven Women.”

July 27: Frankenheimer’s “The Extraordinary Seaman,” followed by a trio of lecherous comedies - “Under the Yum-Yum Tree,” “Come Blow Your Horn” and “Boys’ Night Out.”

July 28: “The Member of the Wedding.” With a perfect Julie Harris, Ethel Waters and Brandon DeWilde. Fred Zinnemann directs.

July 29: “The Wackiest Ship in the Army.” Jack Lemmon, Ricky Nelson and a lot of Aussie actors in a serious comedy. Don’t be fooled by the title.

July 30: “The Diary of Anne Frank,” George Stevens’ directed the affecting Millie Perkins in a hugh but humbling version of the Broadway hit.

July 31: “Kapo.” Susan Strasberg in a Gilo Pontecorvo film.

(Artwork: Wendy Hiller in Powell-Pressburger's "I Know Where I'm Going" and poster art for the Broadway production of "Under The Yum-Yum Tree")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Carrie Rickey on "Evening"


Witty and succinct as always, Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer perfectly sums up the problem with the new all-star "Evening" in no fewer than 18 - count 'em - 18 words. Here's the opening graph from her June 29th review of the film:

"'Evening' might be the most shocking waste of natural resources since the despoiling of the Amazon rain forest."

Check out Carrie's review in its entirety and savor the remainder of what she had to say about this prestige misfire.

(Artwork: Film critic Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Edward Yang, 1947-2007



Filmmaker Edward Yang, ne Te-Chang Yang, one of the leading forces in the Taiwanese New Wave, died from colon cancer on June 29 in Los Angeles, his adopted city.

He is survived by:
-- "That Day On The Beach" (1983)
-- "Taipei Story" (1984)
-- "The Terrorizer" (1986)
-- "A Brighter Summer Day" (1991)
-- "A Confucian Confusion" (1995)
-- "Mahjong" (1996)
-- and the exquisite "Yi Yi" (2000).

At his death, Yang was in preproduction on a planned animated film, "The Wind." Hopefully, his partner in the project, Jackie Chan, will guide the work to its completion and with Yang's vision for it.

But if his three-hour masterwork, "Yi Yi" turns out to be his last, that's ok. Frankly, I can't think of anything, any film, better.

To paraphrase a line from "Mr. Roberts," thanks for the movies, Mr. Yang, thanks for everything.

(Artwork: Poster art for the French release of Yang's "Yi Yi")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com